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Play Off Quarter Final - Wild V Barons

Wild’s Calum Ruddick (#19) and Miles Finney (#39) battle to keep a Solihull attack at bay during the home leg of the Play Off quarter final tie on Sunday (photo by Geoff White)

Saturday 1st April – Moralee Play Off Quarter Final, 1st Leg

Solihull Barons 6 - YKK Widnes Wild 2

Sunday 2nd April - Moralee Play Off Quarter Final, 2nd Leg

YKK Widnes Wild 0 – Solihull Barons 11

The YKK sponsored Widnes Wild crashed out of the Moralee Division Play Offs at the quarter final stage for the second year in a row after a disappointing 2-17 aggregate defeat at the hands of Solihull Barons over the weekend, losing 6-2 away and 0-11 at home.

The Wild were without the services of player coach Joey Coulter, team captain Tom Jackson and import Dani Haid for the weekend’s games - all sidelined by injury – so this two legged tie was always going to be a bit of an uphill struggle against the team that finished just above them in the final league table.

In the away game on Saturday, Solihull opened the scoring after just 52 seconds and two further goals later in the first period saw them take a 3-0 lead into the first break.

The Barons were on top for long spells of the game and had the lion’s share of puck possession and shots on goal, however Widnes scored the first goal of the second period just 104 seconds from the restart with a powerplay strike from Rhys Edwards to narrow the deficit to just 2.

The game was littered with niggly penalties throughout – 21 to 25 in “favour” of Widnes over the 60 minutes - and the constant stoppages made it difficult for either side to build up any kind of momentum. The Wild defended solidly but were unable to break down the dogged Barons defence and were caught out again by two goals late in the periods, just 70 seconds apart, leaving them 5-1 behind with 20 minutes left to play.

The third period brought a second goal for Widnes – from the stick of Bez Hughes on 45 minutes – but Solihull remained much the stronger team and they fired in a 6th goal on 50 minutes to round off the scoring for the game. Despite the defeat, Miles Finney put in a superb performance in the Widnes net, turning away 69 of the eye watering 75 shots that he faced and was rightfully named MVP for the Wild.

The home game on Sunday – despite the final scoreline – actually started off quite close and it was only through powerplay goals due to needless penalties that Solihull began to build their impressive total.

The first breakthrough came on 6 minutes when the Wild were shorthanded due to a bench penalty for too many men on the ice and the second Barons goal followed 4 minutes later on a powerplay for interference. Widnes had their own powerplay opportunity late in the period but managed to lose control of the puck while building up for an attack and conceded an unlikely shorthanded goal with 8 seconds left in the period.

The prospect of overturning the previous night’s 4-goal deficit had looked daunting at best but, with the score standing at 0-3 on the night and 2-9 on aggregate, things now looked considerably worse for the Wild.

The second period played out goal-less for the first 10 minutes, although Solihull had far more of the play, and they edged further ahead with more powerplay goals on 32 and 35 minutes to bring the score to 0-5 on the night and 2-11 on aggregate. A 6th goal for the Barons – even handed this time – followed on 38 minutes and, with the best will in the world, the game was pretty much over for the Wild.

The Barons went 0-7 up on 44 minutes and, with both teams running down the clock, former Wild Academy Under 18 netminder Jake Lowndes was brought on for the last 5 minutes in place of Miles Finney to give him a brief taste of play off ice time. It was a baptism of fire for the young stopper as he conceded 4 goals from the 6 shots that he faced.

The 2-17 aggregate defeat for the Wild means that Solihull Barons progress to the Moralee Division Play Off weekend which will be held at Altrincham next weekend. They will be joined by Solway Sharks, Whitley Warriors and Billingham Stars who all won their quarter-final ties, meaning that the top 4 finishers in the league will make up the quartet for the semi-finals.

Grim reading though it may be, statisticians and hockey history buffs might be interested to know that Sunday’s 11 goal defeat equalled the Wild’s heaviest ever home loss – 2-13, also at the hands of Solihull Barons – back in November 2013.

It was also the first time they have ever been shut out in a competitive home game. The Wild’s only other goal-less showing at Planet Ice Widnes came in a 0-9 defeat by Blackburn Hawks in a challenge match in August 2014.


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